Garmin Inreach Faq Ver 3
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Garmin inReach

Garmin inReach FAQ: The Questions You Forgot to Ask

The Garmin inReach units are incredible outdoor tools and a game-changer for outdoor safety. After working with many hikers, I've found that most people activate their inReach, use the essential functions, and move on. But what if you have an emergency or need to get deeper in the field? This guide will answer the questions you want to Google when you can't.

In this Guide:
  • Using inReach for Emergencies
  • What You Need to Know About Messaging
  • inReach Hacks & Tips

Important Update

When should I hit the SOS button?

According to the advice of one of the busiest search and rescue teams in the USA, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department:

Hit the SOS buttons when you are unsure of a safe outcome.

For example, if you're sick or injured and unsure if you can hike out without worsening. Or if you are lost and have exhausted all your self-navigation options. The nice thing about an inReach is that it's a two-way communicator, so you can message back and forth for advice without necessarily requesting that rescuers come to get you.

Garmin recently published an analysis of data from 10,000 Garmin inReach rescues, which was very interesting. The top three reasons why people hit the SOS button were:

I recommend reading the article if you want to dive deeper. There are some interesting insights. 

How long does a rescue take?

Search and rescue consider several factors when setting up a rescue: your situation, your experience, your location, the weather, and rescue asset availability. All of those variables determine when you'll get rescued. 

In general, most rescues take several hours but can take days. I advise bringing some emergency gear to stay overnight, such as a bivy, headlamp, layers, and a water filter. You can see my complete gear list here.

It's also worth noting that how a rescue is executed can vary. Some people assume that it will always be a helicopter that comes in to pick you up, but that's not always the case. I could also be a ground crew, or you could get instructions to self-evacuate or a combination of modes.

Can I hit the SOS button for someone else?

Yes, you can act as a good samaritan and call the IERCC, which coordinates search and rescue services for inReach, and report an emergency for someone else, whether they are with your party or not. Note that if you have rescue insurance, it generally only covers yourself.

Does inReach work all over the world?

Yes, inReach uses the Iridium satellite network, which has 100% global coverage. I've had users send me images of them using the inReach at both poles. In addition, the IERCC has worked with emergency responders in more than 200 countries and territories.

Using a satellite communicator in some countries is illegal or requires licensing. You can find an updated list of those countries on the Garmin support website.

Can I share my location without paying for location tracking points?

Sharing your location can be confusing for new users. First, there are messages, and then there is location sharing, a breadcrumb trail your inReach creates as you move (if you turn it on). Some plans include unlimited location sharing, while others do not.

Can I receive messages on my inReach?

Yes, but you do not get a permanent phone number or email address. Instead, others can message you by:

It's important to note that inReach units automatically check for new messages every hour when powered on. It will also check for new messages when sending a location tracking point or when a user manually checks for messages. Sending a message to an inReach user will not appear quickly, like on a cell phone.

Why are my messages not getting through?

There can be various reasons why messages don't get through, and this is my workflow when that occurs.

  1. Check whether your message has been sent to the satellite from your inReach unit. A small sending icon appears when a send is in progress. Turning on audible send alerts is helpful.
  2. Ensure that your text message isn't going into spam at the sender. The phone number will be inReach, not your phone number.
  3. Check to see if the recipient is a virtual number like Google Voice. Some services, such as Google Voice, cannot receive inReach messages. 
  4. You can file a report with Garmin if all those factors work out.

Can I share my location with another inReach?

Yes, you can. Here's how to do it.

  1. Download the Explore app on your phone and pair it with your inReach. Older units will use the Earthmate app.
  2. Download offline maps for the area where you are going.
  3. Ensure you have location sharing enabled as described earlier.
  4. Message other inReach units using their unique inReach email address, which you can find at under Account > My info.
  5. When you get a message, click on it within the Explore or Earthmate app. There will be an option to view it on a map.

Can I use an inReach without a subscription?

You can use functions that don't involve satellite communications, such as navigation functionality. However, you cannot use SOS, messages, presets, location sharing, or satellite weather.

Can I activate the inReach just by using the inReach device?

No, you must download the Explore or Earthmate app and have a data connection like WiFi to set it all up.

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.